This program was recorded and can be viewed in four parts at youtube.com/opcofamerica
The Ford Foundation East River Room was full of people curious about the global broadcasters who are newcomers to the U.S. market. The international media organizations are fueled largely by seasoned American journalists like panelist Marcy McGinnis, formerly of CBS News who is now Senior Vice President of News Gathering and moderator Jim Laurie who was an NBC correspondent in Saigon and now is a broadcast consultant. Both McGinnis and Laurie are OPC members.
Laurie asked for a show of hands from the audience for who had seen the channels represented on the panel: Al Jazeera America, CCTV and NHK. Al Jazeera America was the most recognizeable of the three and reaches 40 million American households. Part of the issue behind the seeming obscurity of these channels is the difficulty each has had in securing a channel with cable and sattellite providers, and even, as is the case with Al Jazzeera America, difficulty using its own material for a website due to legacy contractual issues related to the channel it purchased for broadcast, Current TV.
News anchor for CCTV Elaine Reyes said that to distinguish itself in the crowded marketplace, CCTV news is going wider and international with its coverage. “We want to cover undercovered areas of the world like Latin America, Africa. You’re not going to go to many other channels on the dial and see a live shot from North Korea with their missle lauches. You’re not going to see a live shot in Havana or the protests in Brazil [on American TV].”
She gave an example of traveling a week before to Bali for the APEC Conference and when President Obama cancelled, there was a pause in the atmosphere as many of the western press corp left. Coverage of an important gathering like APEC is something Reyes said is fundamental to her news organization’s mission.
Laurie asked if in the crowded American news marketplace if any of these channels can be successful? Porter Bibb, media commentator, said, “None of these networks are suffering the way American news media has in terms of profit and loss. Al Jazeera, CCTV and NHK have basically blank checks to pay for what they do. They do very good journalism, but they’re either government or partisan controlled or perceived to be, which inhibits its reach. The distribution pipelines are hostile to anything that isn’t red, white and blue America. As a viewer, I want to see what Al Jazeera can cover from the Middle East.”